A week ago, when the IAS Officers Association in Tamil Nadu decided to seek an appointment with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram to discuss various “problems” faced by them, it was more unusual of sorts in a state like Tamil Nadu which boasts to have the best IAS officers in the country. And on Tuesday, DGP Ashok Kumar was relieved from duty, all of a sudden, when he sought VRS two months before his due retirement, in a clear indication that all is not well with Tamil Nadu’s bureaucracy.
T.K. Rajendran, who was the Chennai city police commissioner was promoted as the state’s top cop, while IPS officer S. George replaced Rajendran as the city commissioner.
Earlier, senior officers like K. Gnanadesikan, who was the chief secretary in Jayalalithaa’s earlier regime and Atul Anand, who headed the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (ELCOT) and was the commissioner of Geology and Mining were suspended from office on August 31.
Though suspensions and transfers of IAS and IPS officers are termed to be for administrative convenience, the frequent reshuffles have not gone down well with the bureaucrats. Senior officers in the state secretariat seem to lament over the continuous reshuffle by the government’s top boss in the name of administrative convenience.
Another problem the bureaucrats face after Jayalalithaa took over for the third time in 2011, is the appointment of a retired or a senior officer as an adviser to the government. Usually the chief secretary is considered as the administrative head of any state, but in Tamil Nadu, the peculiar situation is that a “super CS” would act as an adviser to the government and would boss over the bureaucrats including the chief secretary. This had caused much disgruntlement among the officers over the past few years.
For instance, during Jayalalithaa’s previous tenure in 2011-2016, IAS officer Sheela Balakrishnan was the special adviser to the government till a few days before the assembly elections. While Balakrishnan sat in the secretariat, the IPS officers’ headquarters opposite the Marina Beach in Chennai was led by retired cop K. Ramanujam, who was considered the chief minister’s trusted man when it comes to intelligence. He was the super cop after his retirement.
Ramanujam was promoted as DGP and posted as head of state intelligence in 2011. He handled the additional charge of law and order. In 2012, a day before his retirement, he was posted as full-time DGP, Law and Order, for a fixed tenure of two years on the basis of a Supreme Court order. This was based on a case filed by former BSF director general Prakash Singh. After his retirement from service in November 2014, Ramanujam was appointed an adviser to the government. Now, in her fifth term as chief minister, Jayalalithaa’s office consists of retired officers like Shanta Sheela Nair and K.N. Venkatramanan.
Senior officers strongly lament that this sort of attitude of appointing advisers and frequent shuffling had structurally demoralised the bureaucracy. Though the political circles term it to be the Jayalalithaa’s style of handling things perfectly, this has caught the officers on the nerve.
Apparently, the bureaucratic scene in Tamil Nadu is pathetic with at least two officers placed on suspension, six officers on compulsory waiting list, one officer without pension and at least three to four departments without secretaries. The officer who was in the good books of Tamil Nadu’s top political boss and who brought several thousand crores of rupees during the Global Investors Meet in 2015 is still waiting for pension orders from the government after retirement.
In a human angle, when a DGP retires, a sweet send off would be extended. Unfortunately Ashok Kumar, who quit as DGP on Tuesday, was not given a dignified handshake. His own officers did not bother to host him a send off parade. He had left his office at 11.30 pm, say top sources in the police department.
Amid all these, the IAS Officers Association is still waiting to get an appointment with the chief minister to represent them. It remains to be seen whether they will do it to save their dignity.